Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery

Liturgy Lesson: January 19, 2020
Call to Worship: Micah 4:1-2; Psalm 50:1-6
Prayer of Invocation
Hymn of Invocation: Come, Thou Almighty King (#101)
Hymn of Adoration: Creation Sings
Confession: Jeremiah 2:11-13 and prayer
Assurance of Pardon: from Luke 24 and 1 Jn. 1
Hymn of Assurance: How Deep the Father’s Love
Reading of the Word: Gen. 12:1-3
Doxology: #733
Sermon: Rev. Eric Irwin
Tithes and Offerings
The Lord’s Supper: Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery; Come, Ye Sinners, Poor and Wretched
Closing Hymn: Jesus Shall Reign (#441)

Things that come once a year: Christmas, Birthdays, Taxes, and the apocalyptic Seattle snow event. The first three on this list fall on predictable dates each year, but the latter…well…that’s always a surprise. The meteorologists, with all their gadgets and satellites and “hunch”men, can predict the showtime, but nobody knows what kind of music to expect when winter turns up the volume. One thing is for sure, it’s always a hit. This latest virtuoso display caused a flurry of excitement for the whole region. Workers ski-daddled home, drivers flaked out, and kids had a ball. For the past three days schedules have been frozen, plans have been put adrift, but, weather or not we thaw it coming, there was snow much beauty to enjoy. Who do we have to thank for this? Well…

God thunders wondrously with his voice; he does great things that we cannot comprehend.
 For to the snow he says, ‘Fall on the earth,’ likewise to the downpour, his mighty downpour.
 He seals up the hand of every man, that all men whom he made may know it. Then the beasts go into their lairs, and remain in their dens. From its chamber comes the whirlwind, and cold from the scattering winds. By the breath of God ice is given, and the broad waters are frozen fast.
He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance,
to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world. Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen.

– Job 37:5-13, 22

“Whether for correction or for his land or for love, he causes it to happen”. I think it’s all three, but mostly for love. And, to accentuate the point, here is one of my all-time favorite hymn texts about snow. See if you can hear echoes of Psalm 119 in this one.

All beautiful the march of days, as seasons come and go;
The hand that shaped the rose hath wrought the crystal of the snow,

Hath sent the hoary frost of heav’n, the flowing waters sealed,
And laid a silent loveliness on hill and wood and field.

O’er white expanses sparkling pure the radiant morns unfold;
The solemn splendors of the night burn brighter through the cold.

Life mounts in ev’ry throbbing vein, Love deepens round the hearth,

And clearer sounds the angel hymn, “Good will to men on earth.”

O Thou from whose unfathomed law the year in beauty flows,

Thyself the vision passing by in crystal and in rose,
Day unto day doth utter speech, and night to night proclaim,

In ever-changing words of light, the wonder of Thy name.

That last stanza gets it right. All of the created beauty that we see around us is speaking of His glory in “ever-changing words of light.” These are not audible words that form logical, coherent, and intelligible sentences. No, these “words of light” are more music than meaning. They are poetic exclamations of our Creator’s love. The beauty that we behold all around us is intended to inspire rapturous awe and wonder. Its telos is worship. How does the old hymn put it?

“O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made…Then sings my soul, my Savior God to thee, how great Thou art!”

God made the world and then said “it is good.” He made trees that were not only “good for food” but also “pleasing to the eye” (Gen. 2). The world is the the work of his hands, and it is more than just “useful.” It is undeniably enchanted, shot through with loveliness and grace. Hidden in the intricacy of each crystal is unfathomable artistry. The overwhelming brightness of the snow makes you squint because it is nothing more than the refracted beams of the Maker’s radiance. The snow will melt, but His glory is unfading (1 Pet. 5:4). All thanks and praise to Him who woos us with his works, washes us whiter than snow, and welcomes us into his house of endless delight.

Come, Behold the Wondrous Mystery
Words and Music by Matt Boswell, Matt Papa, and Michael Bleecker (2012)

The title of this new hymn includes two words that are rarely mentioned in reformed Christian circles: Wonder and Mystery. Our tribe tends to emphasize doctrinal purity, and that is a very good thing; however, this can tempt us toward a posture of certainty in all matters of faith. Our head outweighs the heart and so we bobble-tilt towards the analytical instead of the adorational. Our hymns remedy this imbalance, since music is fundamentally a language of the heart. If all that mattered was orthodoxy (right belief), then we might as well just murmur or mumble the hymns to ourselves, and in church recite the lyrics in bland speech. Why set the words to music? Why the countless mentions of singing (over 500 of them) in scripture? Because singing shapes our affections. Opening our throats opens our hearts. And God wants our hearts.

That is the intention behind the writing of this great new hymn. Matt Papa, co-writer, has this to say about its creation and content:

“When Matt Boswell sent me some of the early lyrics for “Come, Behold The Wondrous Mystery” it caught my attention, because the idea was in perfect stride with the book I was working on at that very time called Look & Live. Look & Live is actually a meditation on the word “Behold” and how that relates to worship, so I was pretty exhilarated to work on a song whose main idea or “north star” was “come behold.” I would say the book and the song really have 2 Corinthians 3:18 as their wellspring…”And we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” The verse essentially says that to “behold” is to “become”…to see glory, or beauty, is to change. And later in that chapter he says what the “glory” is…specifically…it is the glory of God in the “face of Christ.” So the song rather simply and poetically unpacks the glory that we were made to “behold”…the glory of the person of Christ.”

The four verses of the hymn “unpack” this glory by focusing on the chapters of the life of Christ, inviting us to behold each one, pondering the wonder and mystery of our Savior. Verse one announces the birth of Christ, “the dawning of the King…robed in frail humanity.” Verse 2 celebrates the life of Christ, “the true and better Adam.” Verse 3 invites us to the cross, where we behold the death of Christ, “the Lord upon the tree.” And the final verse heralds the triumphant resurrection of Christ. Matt says that as he was working on each verse he was…

“trying my best to fight to communicate the “mystery of the Glory…the paradox of it. The gospel is a “mystery” (Colossians 1:26, Ephesians 3:6, 1 Peter 1:12), and “mystery” and transcendence is a thing that the modern church has been lacking in for some time.”

This great text is set to a simple, strophic tune. It is a folk-like melody that lends itself to many different musical interpretations and styles. It is very easy to sing, and like our recent snow, I think it will stick.

Suggested recording (my favorite), this one is just piano and vocals at a pastors’ conference. Listen to those guys sing!
A few other options:
Recording (w/ lyrics) by co-writer Matt Papa
Live recording from the Getty “Sing” conference